Disclaimer and foreword: My first AMG fic, "Blessings" got some good reviews, so I opted to write a sequel. AMG, Tenchi Muyo, Slayers and Michael Coldsmith-Briggs do not belong to me.
So she said yes.
I'll never forget the look in her eyes. I could see the exact moment when she realized what I was doing, that flicker from puzzlement to dawning realization and then... well... joy. I know, I know. But I wasn't really expecting that. I was expecting fumbling, an attempt to spare my feelings while she tried to sort it out and make a decision one way or another, but instead I saw the yes in her eyes before she said anything.
She hugged me, cried, "Yes! Yes! Of course!"
Keiichi shrugged as he finished the story and pointed up at the sky over the temple. Megumi squinted as she looked up. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, despite the winter chill. It was merely the latest in a line of good days, actually, and Megumi was starting to figure out why.
"So she's been hovering up there for three days?" Megumi asked, finally making out the small dot of light, almost like a midday star, about five hundred feet above the temple.
Keiichi nodded. "Yup," he said. "She took off like a shot straight into the sky."
"What's she doing up there?"
The junior smiled and fought down a laugh. "Close your eyes and let your mind go blank."
"Just do it."
Megumi rolled her eyes and did as she was told. Closing her eyes, she let the thoughts of how stupid this exercise was wash away. Then, once the clutter was gone, in the very back of her mind, she heard it.
Her eyes popped open. "That's her?!"
Keiichi nodded. "She and Holy Bell have been singing like that for three days. I don't know for sure if it's them doing it, but it's almost like the entire town is... I don't know... feeling good..."
"Oh, come on, Kei chan..."
"No, seriously," Keiichi argued. "Have you noticed that Nekomi is the only town for two hundred miles where it's been sunny and almost a little warm the last three days? Chiba City is half an hour down the road, and they have three feet of snow today. It's like... it's like everyone is just happier..."
"Speak for yourself," someone grumbled behind them.
Turning, the siblings saw Skuld sitting with her back against a tree, poking at the ground with a stick.
"Don't mind her," Urd said, coming out of the house. "She's just being a sore loser. Doesn't want to admit when she's been beaten."
"Shut up," Skuld replied, but morosely.
Urd smiled at the two. "And don't worry about Belldandy. She's just expressing her happiness." She grinned evilly and leaned over to whisper in Keiichi's ear. "And when she comes down, I'm sure she'll be doing things to express that happiness to you..."
"Eh?!" The boy took a step back in shock.
Megumi sighed. "Oh, jeez, Kei chan, you're engaged! That means you're allowed to at least touch her at some point."
"I'm not discussing this with either of you!"
"Amen," he heard Skuld say sulkily.
He blinked and looked behind him for the voice, but finding no one, just assumed he imagined it.
This time, he looked up and found Belldandy falling toward him, her arms outstretched and her smile beaming toward him like a ray of light. He had only a second, but his reflexes kicked and he reached out to catch her. She slowed her approach and floated into his arms.
"Belldan..." Her name was cut off as she kissed him. The college student felt a warmth and joy flow into him like nothing he had ever felt before. Her arms wrapped around him as her lips left his, and she was hugging him fiercely.
Urd and Megumi smiled and sighed.
With Belldandy's singing done, the sky darkened just a bit, and snow began to fall on Nekomi again.
"Well, I think this calls for a party!" Urd cried, brandishing a sake bottle. "I can inform half the city inside twenty minutes and have catering here twenty minutes after that!"
"Oh, uh oh..." Megumi said, suddenly remember why she had come by in the first place. "Um, Kei chan..."
The boy opened his eyes and smiled at his sister, but didn't let go of Belldandy.
Megumi laughed nervously. "Um... funny story, but... Remember when you called me three days ago? You said, 'she said yes! Gotta go! I'll explain later!'?"
The boy nodded, his smile turning to the beginning hints of suspicion.
"Well, I had no idea that Belldandy was... well... indisposed for the last three days, so I just assumed the two of you were busy... celebrating..."
Skuld made a retching sound.
"Anyway," Megumi continued. "Mom called this morning... and I just assumed she knew... and I kind of mentioned it how great the news was... and..." She sighed and gave up. "Mom's pissed at you," she finished sheepishly.
Keiichi sighed. "Of course..."
Belldandy looked up at him. "Your mother doesn't approve?" she asked, her expression close to horrified.
"Oh, it's not that!" Megumi said, waving the thought away. "I'm sure she'll love you... It's just that in the interest of keeping rumors from flying around... she didn't know about you."
She heard Skuld give a bark of laughter.
"And you know how Mom is," Megumi said. "Sufficed to say, the ensuing rant lasted the better part of an hour." She paused for a moment. "Oh, and she thinks you got a foreign girl pregnant and now you're trapped in a marriage because Belldandy's foreign family demanded it."
"Why would she think that?" Belldandy asked in amazement.
"You don't know our mom," Keiichi muttered. "To be honest, I'm surprised she didn't ask Megumi if we already had kids."
"Well..." Megumi said sheepishly, averting her gaze.
He felt Belldandy's fingers on his chin as she pointed his face back to her. "It doesn't matter," she said, smiling. "None of it matters. We'll just go there and explain it to her. I still haven't met the rest of your family."
"Yeah! We'll all go!" Urd cried, now wielding a half-empty bottle of sake. "By the way, FYI, we have pizza coming."
"Wow!" Megumi said, clapping her hands together. "You know, as GREAT an idea as that is, I think the BEST thing for you and Kei chan to do would be to... well... move to a foreign country and never set foot in Japan again."
"Megumi san?" Belldandy asked, puzzled.
"Megumi, don't be ridiculous," Keiichi said reproachfully. Belldandy smiled and hugged him again just as he went on. "Mom doesn't set foot outside of Hokkaido, we can just hide from her here."
While Keiichi and Megumi continued to debate an appropriate plan, Belldandy hurried into the hallway and picked up the phone. Punching the third name down on the speed dial, she waited for her father to pick up, bouncing ever so slightly.
She heard the phone on the other end pick up. "Almighty's office, Marella speaking," she heard the voice of her father's assistant answer.
"Marella san! Is the Almighty there? I need to speak with him."
Sitting on the bottom bench of a set of bleachers, the dark haired goddess, Marella, patron goddess of executive assistants, smiled. "He's been expecting your call, Verthandi. Hold one moment." Standing up, Marella searched the field.
The Almighty, who Keiichi knew as Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, urged Sleipnir into a faster trot and swung the polo mallet, knocking the ball several meters down the field. He saw Marella holding up the cell phone, and reined in the eight-legged steed, instructing it to trot toward the woman.
"Verthandi," Marella told him, offering him the phone as he dismounted.
The Almighty smiled as he raised the phone to his ear. "Verthandi, my child! How good to hear from you." He threw Marella a smile and raised the back of his hand to his forehead as if making a premonition. "I sense you call with happy news," he said with a wink to his assistant.
"Hai!" Belldandy cried over the other end. "Keiichi asked me to marry him!"
"Keiichi... Keiichi..." Briggs/God said in mock thought. "Let me check my records..." He smiled broadly. "Keiichi... Mori... sayto... Right?"
"Ah, yes. Of course." Marella was holding her hands to her mouth in an attempt to hold back the giggles. "Short chap. Bushy eyebrows. Into bikes and mountain climbing, right?"
"I don't think he climbs mountains, Kami sama," Belldandy answered, genuinely puzzled.
"Oh, that must just be a typo in his biographical data," Briggs/God told her. "I'll have Marella fix it. So he asked you to marry him, that's wonderful!"
He sensed Belldandy pause on the other end. "Kami sama, I know my staying here has caused problems in the past, but... I very much want to stay with him."
Briggs/God smiled. "My child," he said. "I want you to do something for me."
"Of course, Kami sama."
"You have given this world I've created a great deal of joy over the millenia," he told her. "Your diligence and sacrifice have made it a better place one person at a time. Now, I want you to look to your own happiness. You've spent your whole life granting the wishes of others. I think it's time you were granted a wish of your own."
"Thank you, Kami sama!" Belldandy cried in joy. "Will you come to the wedding?"
"I'm sure Marella and I could make the time." He smiled again. "One more thing, Verthandi. Tell Keiichi that when he sends invitations to Mr. Fujisawa, he's going to have to send two. He'll know what I mean."
Belldandy paused, not sure what to make of the statement, but accepting it on its face. "Hai."
"Now I'm quite sure Urd is planning a party by now," Briggs/God told her. "Go have fun. And congratulations."
"Thank you, Father," Belldandy told him.
He handed the phone back to Marella, who immediately added her own congratulations. Smiling and shaking his head, the Almighty remounted Sleipnir.
Belldandy hung up and wiped a joyful tear from her eye. Turning, she came up short as she noticed Skuld standing in the hall. "Oh, Skuld! Isn't this wonderful?! I can't believe it!"
Skuld's eye twitched. "Oneesama... don't you think you should think about this?"
The older goddess was brought up short. "Eh?"
Her little sister rushed up to her. "I mean it's so sudden! You should wait! I mean... You barely know him!"
"Skuld, we've lived together for three years..."
"Where was he that week? He's been keeping secrets!" Skuld flailed about for an argument that would work. "It's... It's... YOU MARRYING HIM IS JUST WRONG!"
Skuld took a step back at the abrupt change in her sister's expression at this statement. "O...Oneesama..."
"Skuld," Belldandy began quietly. "You've never approved of Keiichi. I know that. But I know deep in my heart that marrying him will be the most right I've ever done." She stepped by the younger goddess and moved toward the hall to the kitchen. "And if you can't be happy for me, I would appreciate it greatly if you would at least refrain from saying such hurtful things."
Tears welled up in Skuld's eyes. "Oneesama..."
But Belldandy was already gone. She listened and heard syrupy sweet greetings as Keiichi found her there, giggling, and then...
Skuld sighed. Belldandy had been using her powers for three days straight. Her falling asleep was only a matter of time. At least Keiichi would be keeping his lips off her sister tonight.
But what about tomorrow night? If she was going to derail this train to Hell, she would have to work fast.
Sparing not another moment, she dashed to her lab.
"How is she?" Urd asked from the other side of the table as Keiichi sat down. She took a tea cup from Megumi as her soon-to-be sister in law sat down to her left.
"Asleep," Keiichi said. He was practically glowing in happiness.
"No telling how long she'll be asleep," Urd pointed out. "Guess the party's postponed until tomorrow." She shrugged. "Just means I can invite more people."
"Uh, Urd, maybe a small thing would be better, dinner here, maybe," Keiichi began.
"Oh, I don't think so," Urd said with a wicked grin. "I kept your dirty little secret about where you've been, which means you owe me."
Keiichi's head dropped. "Hai..."
"Excellent!" the goddess said, cracking her knuckles. "Top of the invite list, Sayoko and that little urchin, Aoshima!"
"Of course," Megumi sighed.
"Behold, Banpei, my greatest invention!" Skuld cried, holding the small box aloft. "With my Auto-Stalker Call Box, Keiichi will get phone calls from 'jealous girlfriends' all over the world!" She pulled her goggles off and left the lab.
The house was dark, it was nearly midnight, and everyone else had gone to bed. The barest glimmer of guilt crossed the young goddess' mind as she approached the phone. It WAS rather underhanded, after all.
She closed her eyes and mustered her resolve. "I can't let this wedding happen," she whispered. "I'm sorry, Keiichi, but I just can't."
She attached the ASCB to the phone and grinned. "Now, I just have to make a call to synch the two systems..." She picked up the receiver.
"Skuld!" she heard from the phone. "Stay right there. I'll be there in six seconds!"
Skuld's eyes went wide and she began to shake in trepidation. Despite hearing the click, she responded anyway. "K...Kami sama?"
She turned and screamed. Briggs/God, in his white suit and panama hat, glared down at her.
"I suppose you think this is all terribly funny," he told her.
Skuld waited a moment, sure that the entire house would come rushing in at the sound of her scream, but so far... nothing.
The Almighty reached down and tore the ASCB from the phone.
"Kami sama... I... I..."
"You thought it'd be easy, didn't you?" Briggs/God cut her off. "Except for one thing. This is Verthandi's wish, which means the System Force kicks in every time something tries to interfere with the wedding, and since it's a goddess-level wish, the only person with the authority to intervene is me." He put the device back into her hands. "Which means every time some jealous jackass comes up with some lame scheme to interfere, I get a call in the middle of the night, and you know how I don't like being woken up on Sundays..."
The young goddess' head drooped as fresh tears welled up. "Kami sama, I'm sorry," she whispered. "I just can't..."
"What disappoints me the most is that YOU would try to do this to your sister," Briggs/God told her. "There are enough jackals out there who are going to try to prevent this without her own sister gunning for her."
Skuld's backbone reappeared in full force. "I'm looking out for Oneesama!" she cried. "Keiichi is all wrong for her! He's...He's so lame!"
The Almighty's one eye regarded her with surprise. "Oh, really? It seems what you need is some perspective." He turned from her as he spoke. "There's an engagement party for them tomorrow night. You're not going."
"Well, duh," Skuld muttered.
"What was that?!"
"NOTHING!" Skuld cried, getting wise to what she had just said and to whom.
"You will be visited by three spirits tomorrow night," he told her, pointing his finger at her. "And they are going to show you why you should be on your knees thanking me for allowing this wedding to happen and how utterly horrifying it MIGHT have ended."
He straightened. "Now go to your room, young lady!"
Skuld never ran so fast in all her life.
"I can't believe you made posters," Keiichi noted as he trailed behind Urd. The eldest goddess stopped and taped one up on the classroom wall, taking tape out of the boy's hands. Standing behind him, his fiancé was showing her ring finger to every student who passed by. Male students would either glare at Keiichi or give him a rough slap on the back, while female students tended to ooh and ah at the ring before joining Belldandy in a bouncing fit.
"Keiichi, your little sister only gets married once," Urd told him as she smoothed the poster out. "Besides, this is more than your engagement. It's the culmination of three years' work on my part."
"You didn't really factor in," Keiichi pointed out.
"But I still worked," Urd growled, tossing the tape back at him. "Next classroom."
The boy followed her to the next classroom as she continued. "Besides, the two of you are so low-key about things that I doubt you'd actually advertise it without me."
"'Neesan, perhaps Keiichi is right," Belldandy said. "I'm not sure it feels right to be showing off like th..." She paused and suddenly started waving at someone down the hall. "Sayoko san! Sayoko san! Over here!" As the Mishima family heir came closer, Belldandy held her hand out. "Keiichi asked me to marry him!" she cried.
The woman turned pale and her expression took on a mask of disgust. Without a word, she turned on her heel and stormed off. Belldandy looked perplexed.
"Now you can't tell me that didn't feel a LITTLE good," Urd said, nudging her sister with her elbow.
"Do you think Sayoko san is sick?" Belldandy asked.
"I'm willing to bet she wants to throw up right now, yeah," Urd said, returning to her poster hanging.
The boy turned and found Otaki and Tamiya towering over him. "Senpai!"
"Wait, I thought you two graduated..." Urd pointed out.
"They're going for masters' degrees," Belldandy told her happily.
"We heard about your engagement," Tamiya rumbled. "You will, of course, have the wedding at the Auto Club clubhouse. Otaki has been talking about decorations all day." At this, the blond man held up wedding brochures.
"How... manly," Urd noted. "In the meantime, you're invited to the engagement party tonight!" she added, handing them a poster.
While Urd wheeled and dealed, Keiichi leaned over to Belldandy. "Urd is really taking this seriously."
Belldandy smiled and whispered back. "I think she's always wanted this for us. I think she even tried to manipulate us into getting closer during that first year together."
Keiichi's eye twitched. "I... hadn't noticed."
Belldandy's smile nearly touched her ears. "Hai. She's always been supportive." At this, Keiichi noticed her smile waver for just a second.
"Something wrong?" he whispered.
The goddess' frown was more pronounced now. "I think Skuld might hate me now."
Keiichi's eyes went wide. "Hate you?"
She nodded slowly. "She came to me last night and told me I shouldn't marry you. I was cross with her. Now... I haven't seen her all morning. I think she's avoiding us."
"Skuld doesn't hate you," Keiichi reassured her. "She's just upset and thinks her big sister won't have as much time for her anymore."
Belldandy sighed but didn't reply.
Keiichi leaned back in the bath and closed his eyes, absorbed in the simple luxury of soaking. They still had a couple of hours until Urd's party, and the boy had taken the opportunity for a bath.
He heard the door open behind him and sighed in resignation.
So what is it this time, he asked himself. Urd here to offer him one last fling as a free man? Or Skuld decided to frag him with a Skuld Bomb in the bath? Maybe Peorth had returned, still convinced that only she was able to grant his wish.
He sat bolt upright. "Belldandy?" His eyes narrowed. "Or goddess sounding suspiciously LIKE Belldandy..."
"It's me," he heard her say. "I've come to wash your back."
Still not believing it, he turned and found Belldandy standing there wrapped in a towel and a smile. He turned around quickly and started to blush. "B... Belldandy!? I mean... Are you... Should you... Um..."
"Isn't this what married couples do?" she asked, a hint of puzzlement tinging her voice.
"Well... Yes, but... we're not married yet..."
"Do you plan to call off the wedding?" she asked.
"No! Of course not!" he cried, turning to her, then quickly turning back around.
She smiled. "Then we've done everything but say the vows." She slid into the water behind him.
"Keiichi," she said, a touch of concern touched her voice this time. "You've made your feelings plain. How much plainer do I have to make mine?"
Keiichi felt a pressure in his chest release and the tension in his muscles melted. She was right.
"Of course," she said, beginning to scrub his back.
Standing outside the door, Skuld growled in irritated rage.
"Kei...i...CHIIII!" she bit out. Reaching into her shirt, she pulled out a Skuld Bomb and reached back to throw. Before she could wind up, the phone nearby started to ring.
She dropped the bomb like a hot rock. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" she begged the phone.
The phone stopped ringing.
Sighing, she dragged herself to her room and sat down on her futon. Not only had Keiichi managed to steal her sister, he had even found a way to get the Almighty on his side.
Plopping back on her futon, the young goddess stared at the ceiling and grumbled.
She heard someone come through the front door and Megumi's voice call out for Keiichi and her sister. Skuld peeked out of her door and saw the younger Morisato in a yellow skirt and a black top. It was the most girlish Skuld had ever seen Megumi. She ducked back inside and went back to her grumbling.
Surprisingly, she heard a knock at her door.
"Skuld?" she heard Belldandy call. "We're leaving. Are you sure you won't come?"
The younger goddess felt a pang of guilt at the sound of her sister's voice. She almost hopped up and replied with a yes, but the Almighty told her to stay, and she didn't have a choice anymore. She gave that up when she tried to sabotage the phone.
"No," she called back sadly. "I'm going to stay."
Belldandy paused on the other side of the door. "All right." She heard her sister's footsteps walk reluctantly away.
"Skuld isn't coming?" Megumi asked.
"No," Belldandy said morosely.
Urd threw a jacket over her qibao. "She's just sulking. In a few days she'll realize what a child she's being."
Belldandy felt Keiichi rest a jacket on her shoulders and took the opportunity to grab his hand.
"Belldandy," Keiichi began.
"Belldandy," Urd interrupted. "This night is yours. Don't let a child's temper tantrum ruin it."
The goddess found her smile a moment later. "Let's go."
Skuld heard them leave and sighed, waiting for something to happen, something to burst through the wall or a spirit to appear magically from thin air. So far, though, there was nothing.
She waited patiently for fifteen minutes, after which she decided to go get some ice cream from the kitchen. Hopping up from her futon, she walked down the hall.
The blonde woman sitting at their table totally escaped her notice until she spoke up.
Skuld cried out in surprise and turned quickly. The blonde woman sat there, totally unperturbed. She wore a pink dress with a white shawl, and a conical hat with gold bangles sat precariously atop her head. A teacup sat on a saucer in her hand.
"Who are you?" Skuld demanded.
The woman put the saucer down and dug into a pocket in her shawl. "Of course, how rude of me." She held out a small card, and Skuld took it.
Patron Goddess of Teas and Fine China
Skuld arched an eyebrow. "Tea?"
Filia nodded. "However, tonight I'm here under a special assignment as the Spirit of Keiichi and Belldandy's Relationship Past." She ended the statement while making quotation marks with her fingers. "A rather presumptuous title, I think, but one doesn't question the Almighty."
Skuld sighed. This was going to be lamer than she thought. "Okay," she breathed. "So what are you going to do? Lecture me like every other adult about how it's wrong to kill Keiichi for touching Belldandy?"
"Actually," Filia said, putting her teacup down again. "I'm supposed to show you why their relationship is a good thing... and through that why murdering Morisato san would be bad."
Skuld snorted. "Fine. Do your worst."
"For this, we're going to take a little trip back in time," Filia said, rising to her feet. She began to wave her hands in front of her in slow circles. "We have to go to the past... the past... the past... the past..."
"Um, what are you doing?" Skuld asked, eyebrow atwitch.
Filia looked put off at being interrupted. "Don't you watch television? Any time you do a flashback, the screen gets wavy and you hear the echo of the last thing you say!" She cleared her throat and began again. "The past... The past... the past..."
Skuld growled, but suddenly found herself in a small dorm room. Keiichi was sitting off to the side, dialing a phone.
"We are in Morisato san's dorm room three years ago," Filia announced proudly. "He can't hear or see us, of course. That would just screw everything up." They watched as Belldandy's head popped out of the mirror behind him and Keiichi backed away screaming.
"My, he is skittish, isn't he?" Filia asked.
"So, this is where he trapped my sister in that stupid contract," Skuld bit out.
Filia watched while Keiichi listed all the reasons he had never had a girlfriend, then nudged Skuld, who wasn't really paying attention, as Belldandy spoke.
"... They know that you'll take care of them and use them," she was saying. She cast her eyes downward and nervously held a cylinder from a car engine.
"Oh, isn't that cute!?" Filia squealed.
"What? What's cute?" Skuld demanded.
"PAUSE!" Filia cried. Belldandy and Keiichi stopped moving, and Filia walked around the first class goddess. "Look at her face. See the way she won't look at Morisato san?"
"So? I don't like looking at him either," Skuld told her, sticking her tongue out at the end.
"Oh, come now, Skuld!" Filia chastised her. "She's obviously quite smitten already. Your sister just has a thing for nerd boys!"
"Ugh! You can't honestly believe that!" Skuld cried.
"Oh, and HIM!" Filia remarked, approaching the frozen Keiichi. "Look at the way he looks at her."
"I'd rather not," Skuld growled.
"That, young lady, is the look of total devotion. They just met, and he already looks at her as the bright point in his universe." She sighed.
"Oh, come on!" Skuld cried. "ANY guy who got a good look at Oneesama would have that look on his face! That doesn't mean he should get to have her all to himself!"
An ounce of irritation creeped into Filia's voice. "That is just an awful thing to say," she said in disapproval. She pulled out what Skuld thought was a wand, but turned out to be a remote control. "I guess we just have to fast forward a bit."
The room changed and became Belldandy's room at the temple. The goddess was lying on her futon under a heavy blanket as sweat rolled down her face. Keiichi, his hair incredibly long, knelt next to her.
"I believe this is the time you turned Keiichi into a woman," Filia noted with an arched eyebrow.
Skuld snorted a laugh. "Yeah, that was classic."
"And in attempting to change him back, Belldandy contracted a spiritual illness."
Skuld's face fell. "Yeah," she whispered.
"Somehow, Keiichi dialed into the Yggdrasil system and was able to summon help," Filia told her. "You're a smart girl. What are the mathematical odds of being able to do that?"
Skuld scrunched up her face, not really wanting to answer. "One in one-hundred twenty trillion," she admitted. "But it doesn't prove anything! He got lucky! Which is what he's always trying to do with Oneesama! Get lucky!"
"Young lady, do you even know what that phrase means?!" Filia asked angrily.
"Probably better than you!" Skuld shot back.
Filia gasped in outrage. "Would you really prefer your sister grow into an old maid?!" she demanded. "Spending every night alone, surrounded by cups of tea and china because all her suitors were chased off by an evil, disgusting... namagomi... who put dead rattlesnakes in their mailboxes to keep them from calling her?!" She was huffing and puffing angrily now.
"Um... Are we still talking about Oneesama?" Skuld asked.
"Hmmph!" Filia snorted. "Let's just see if you're correct." She pulled out the remote. "Fast forward!" A moment later, she swore under her breath. "Ack! Too far! Too far!" The scene stopped with Keiichi pulling his pants down to change.
"AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" Skuld screamed, covering her eyes.
Filia blushed and smiled a bit. "Oh my," she noted.
Skuld grabbed the remote and slammed on the rewind button. Filia grabbed it back a moment later. "Now then," she said. "Ah! Here we are!"
A church appeared around them. Belldandy was lying on top of Keiichi in one of the pews, and the two were deep in conversation.
"Tell me, Skuld," Filia said. "If Keiichi is just looking to score, then why is he the one telling Belldandy no?"
Skuld growled. She knew what was happening here. She had inadvertantly caused it, after all. Belldandy, under the influence of the seed of love, had spent a twenty-four hour period as a shameless tramp, practically throwing herself at Keiichi.
"I... I stopped them, that's why!" Skuld replied, throwing her nose in the air.
"No you didn't!" Filia threw back. "Face it, Keiichi didn't want to make love to Belldandy while she wasn't herself."
"Believe what you want," Skuld told her. "But I know Keiichi knew what would happen to him if he did, and that's what kept him from doing anything."
"You are incorrigible!" Filia cried, throwing her hands into the air. Before she could say more, her watch started to beep. "Uh oh. Time for the next spirit to take over." She started waving her hands in the air. "We have to go back to the present... the present... the present..."
"Wait, what do you mean, the next spirit?!"
"The present... The present..."
Suddenly, Skuld was standing in the kitchen again, holding a cup of tea. She tossed the cup in the sink and started back for her room.
As she passed the bathroom, the mirror was visible through the open door. She stopped and blinked, taking a step back and looking inside again. She could have sworn she saw the image of a blue-haired woman in the mirror, smiling at her.
Turning around, she saw a little girl standing behind her. The blue haired girl looked to be about ten years old with pig-tails and pink eyes.
Skuld smiled at her. "Hello, little girl," she said.
The younger girl smiled at her and held out a card.
Goddess of Youthful Beauty
Skuld frowned. "Let me guess, the Spirit of Oneesama and Keiichi Present?"
Sasami smiled and nodded. "I'm going to show you how Keiichi and Belldandy feel about each other today."
The goddess sighed. "Fine. Let's go."
The restaurant and club Urd chose for the engagement party was part classy, part tacky with a karaoke stage off to the side, a bar and seating for a few hundred. Keiichi was amazed to find most of the seats filled.
"Urd... How many people did you call?" the boy asked in amazement.
"One or two," the taller woman said with a grin. "Come on!" She grabbed Keiichi and Belldandy's hands and pulled them toward the crowd.
Standing near where the trio stood a moment ago, Sasami and Skuld watched them disappear. "Wow!" Sasami breathed. "A lot of people came to this, huh?"
"So?" Skuld asked. "Urd probably sprang for an open bar."
"Now that's not nice," Sasami told her. "Your sister cares very deeply for Belldandy and Keiichi. You do too, under all that meanness."
Nearby, the crowd, led by Otaki and Tamiya, were toasting the lucky couple.
"SPEECH! SPEECH!" the crowd chanted as Megumi held a microphone out to him. He waved it away, but Belldandy snatched it.
"Thank you all for coming," she said with a bright smile. The crowd cheered. "You don't know how happy I am to see you here, sharing in our happiness."
"It's about time!" someone in the back shouted.
The crowd laughed.
Belldandy smiled and closed her eyes as she spoke. "This is a very special day, and it will live on with me forever. And I will always cherish it and the people who shared in it." She opened her eyes. "What you are sharing with me is the most joy I've ever known."
A few people wiped tears away, but the rest of the crowd was moved to silence but what she said. People started to applaud and cheer, and soon there was another chant.
Keiichi turned bright red and started stammering, but Belldandy only turned to him and leaned forward, closing her eyes.
After a few moments of chanting, Keiichi leaned in and kissed his fiancé.
The crowd went wild.
Skuld's eye twitched. Sasami was busy chanting and applauding with the rest of them. Noticing Skuld's look, she sheepishly slowed her clapping until soon her hands rested at her sides.
"Now even you have to admit that was just adorable!" Sasami told her.
"You see?" Skuld bit back. "This is my entire point. Everyone is always going on about how great they are together, but what does he ever do for her? He's riding her coattails to popularity. I mean look at them! He can barely make ends meet and she has to work the counter at a convenience store! They're only a six-string in hock away from being a Bon Jovi album!"
"Really?" Sasami asked.
"Oneesama can do so much better," Skuld growled.
"Does she want to?"
"Huh?" The question caught Skuld off guard.
The blue-haired girl blinked at her. "I mean, yes, I'm sure she could have any man she wants, so..." She thought for a moment. "If she wants Keiichi Morisato, isn't it only right that she has him?"
"Would you prefer someone rich, tall and handsome?" Sasami asked. "Maybe him?" She pointed at a man approaching the couple through the crowd.
Skuld threw up a little in her mouth at the sight of him. Aoshima was a lifeform one step above a glob of spit on the sidewalk in her eyes, and she was a little disconcerted that he also managed to fit the little girl's criteria. She was sure there was supposed to be some kind of lesson in this, but she was damned if she knew what it was.
"Belldandy, I must protest!" Aoshima was saying self-importantly. The entire crowd turned and started glaring at him. "To give your hand to a man like this is... is just wrong!"
Skuld shivered at hearing her exact words come out of the low-life's mouth. Sasami sensed her discomfiture and winced sympathetically. "That must have hurt bunches," the girl whispered.
Aoshima grabbed Belldandy's hand, and the crowd started grumbling. "Please, I beg you!" Aoshima told her. "Think about what you're doing. You're throwing your life away!"
Belldandy pulled her hand back abruptly. "Aoshima san," she said, kindly but firmly. "One cannot throw their life away. They can only live it to the limit they imagine for it. And Keiichi makes me feel as if I have no limits. Please enjoy the party, but please refrain from saying such hurtful things."
The disgruntled man adjusted his glasses and stormed off.
Keiichi watched him go and stepped after him. Belldandy, talking with several friends from school, didn't notice he had left.
"Your sister seems to know what she wants," Sasami noted. She walked toward the exit. Skuld followed mechanically, mentally digesting what she just saw. "And I think Keiichi might too."
Skuld looked up and saw they were on the sidewalk outside. Aoshima was still walking briskly away.
The man stopped and turned, growling at the sight of a smiling Keiichi coming his way. He adjusted his tie. "Morisato," he said. "You must feel pretty confident in yourself, lucking into a marriage with a woman like her."
"I do," Keiichi said with a shrug.
"You don't deserve her," Aoshima told him, pointing at his chest. "Look at you! No money! No job!"
"You're absolutely right," Keiichi told him. "I don't deserve her."
Aoshima snorted, denied the satisfaction of a shouting match.
"But since you're leaving, there's something I've wanted to say to you for a long time now, and this seems to be the best time."
"What is it?" Aoshima asked him tiredly.
A second later, he was on his back, his hands at his jaw and lights dancing before his eyes. The lights cleared enough for him to see Keiichi staring down at him, rubbing his knuckles.
"Don't ever touch my fiancé again," Keiichi told him before turning on his heel and walking back into the club.
"That's right!" Sasami cried, pointing an accusing finger at the unknowing Aoshima. "That's what you get for being a jerk-face!"
"Wow," Skuld whispered.
She felt Sasami grab her hand and pull her back to the club. "Now, THAT was awesome!" Sasami told her.
As they reentered, they saw Megumi pushing an ice cold beer against her brother's knuckles.
"That hurt," Keiichi complained.
"Bet it felt good, though." Megumi looked up toward the bar and saw Belldandy approach. "Be cool," she said.
"Keiichi! You're hurt!"
"Yeah," he said. "I... uh... Hit my fist on something thick..."
She took his sore hand and kissed his knuckles. The boy turned beet red while the partygoers around them whooped their approval.
As the goddess lowered his hand, someone appeared over her shoulder.
"Uh oh," Sasami said, with a nudge to Skuld. "Round two."
Sayoko tapped Belldandy on the shoulder and waited for the goddess to turn.
"Sayoko san!" Belldandy cried, smiling. "I'm so glad you came."
"What do you think?" Sasami asked. "Think she'll start with a snide remark or just belt her?"
Sayoko did neither. Instead, she held up a plain white envelope. "Congratulations," she said simply.
Belldandy took the envelope and opened, finding a simple congratulatory card inside and a rather sizeable check.
"Sayoko san," Belldandy whispered.
"I'm big enough to know when I've lost," her rival told her. She started past Belldandy and threw one last shot over her shoulder. "Take care of him," she said. "Or I'll come back and take him away from you."
Tears welled up in Belldandy's eyes. "Hai!" she cried at the woman's back.
"Wow," Sasami said. She turned to Skuld. "It must REALLY be a cold day you know where when a woman who hates Belldandy's GUTS blesses her engagement before her own sister..."
"Okay! Okay! Enough of the guilt, all right?!" Skuld snapped as she turned away. "I know why they hate Belldandy and Keiichi's engagement, and I know why I hate it! I don't need my reasons catalogued by a six year old!"
She turned back to find that the little girl had been replaced with the tall, blue-haired woman she had seen in the mirror earlier. "No," Tsunami told her. "I don't suppose you do. So why don't you educate me. Why WOULD it be so terrible?"
Skuld's face scrunched up in pained rage. Finally, she spun and pointed. "Look at them!" she cried. Keiichi and Belldandy were standing, surrounded by people, talking quietly. "It's hard enough getting her attention as it is! Once they're married, it'll be 'honey' this and 'darling' that and my sister as I know her will cease to exist!"
Tsunami knelt next to her and put her hands on her shoulders. "Do you really think that?"
Skuld wiped a tear away. "Yes," she bit out. "I know Keiichi is a good guy, okay? But if he marries Belldandy, it's over. I lose my sister, he gains a wife, well that trade-off SUCKS!"
The blue-haired goddess thought on this for a moment before rising again. "Then my part in this is over. Your problem cannot be resolved through perspective in the present or the past, only the future." She closed her eyes and whispered a spell.
The next moment, Skuld was back in her kitchen. Sniffling, she went to the counter and reached for a paper towel, only to find the roll empty.
Almost as if wishing for one made it appear, a handkerchief appeared over her shoulder. She absently took it and dabbed at her eyes.
"Thanks," she muttered.
"You're quite welcome!"
Jumping in surprise, she turned and saw a violet-haired man in black robes standing there, holding a staff with a red gem in his right hand.
"Let me guess," Skuld said monotone. "God of Keiichi and Belldandy Future?"
"Yes," the man replied.
"Here to show me how wonderful their life is going to be?"
"Full of 'honey' this and 'darling' that?"
Skuld took a breath. "Bring it on."
The god held out his card, and for the third time that night, Skuld took it.
God of Strategic Operations, Communications and Bad Relations
"Okay, let's go," Skuld said, tossing the card aside.
Xellos smiled and raised a finger into the air. "For this, we'll have to go into the future!"
"Wait," Skuld said, interrupting him. "Don't you have to wave your hands and go, 'the future! The future! The future!?'"
The god snorted. "Oh, goodness no!" he said. "I just told Filia that to see if she'd really do it! She's so adorably naive sometimes. Ready? Good! Off we go!"
The next moment, Skuld was standing... in the kitchen.
"Wooo," Skuld said, stretching. "All that time travel sure makes me tired!"
Xellos' eyebrow twitched. "Just so you know, we ARE in the future. Exactly ten years, I'll have you know."
The younger goddess looked around. "It looks exactly the same."
"Yes, well, your sister tends to get rather set in her ways."
As if mentioning her acted as a summons, Belldandy appeared in the kitchen, humming quietly to herself.
"She hasn't changed at all," Skuld mentioned. "So, is this supposed to show me that no matter what, our relationship will never change?"
"Oh, goodness no!" Xellos said with a wave. "Your relationship is going to go through monumental changes!" Skuld hunched over and sighed in despair. "And your sister has been through quite a few changes by this point," he continued.
At that moment, a high pitched sound launched itself into the kitchen. Skuld covered her ears and grimaced, but Belldandy only looked up.
"Coming, sweetie," she called out.
The two followed Belldandy into the other room and found the goddess lifting a baby out of a play pen. "There there," she cooed. "No, no, no! Mama's hair doesn't go into your mouth!" The goddess pulled futilely at the tresses the baby had jammed into its mouth.
"Oh, he's so cute!" Skuld cried before catching herself.
They heard the door open and shut not far away. "Tadaima!" they heard Keiichi call.
"Welcome home!" Belldandy replied. "Skuld! Your father's home!"
Skuld, her eyes wide in amazement, watched as a six year old girl, the spitting image of Belldandy when she was that age, came running from down the hall. Without even a greeting, the girl launched herself into Keiichi's arms.
"Hey, little genius," Keiichi replied with a hug. "What did you do today?"
"I invented a carrot cutting machine for Mama!"
"Oh, yeah?" he asked.
"But it doesn't work right," the girl pouted.
"They named their daughter after me?" the goddess asked, turning to Xellos.
The god shrugged. "Belldandy claims that it fit."
"Well, maybe your aunt can help you with that," Keiichi told the little girl. "Look who I found at the track today."
Skuld watched as an adult version of herself stepped through the door.
"Skuld!" Belldandy cried, carrying her son into a hug with her sister.
"I had some ideas for Keiichi's new rig, so I stopped by," the older Skuld said. "And I hear someone is inventing carrot machines."
Her niece nodded.
"Well, why don't you show me after dinner, and we'll get it working."
"In the meantime, it's time to wash up for dinner," Belldandy told her, taking her hand and leading her toward the bath.
Keiichi and future Skuld watched them go. The mortal man turned to her. "Drink?" he asked.
"I'd love a beer," Skuld told him with a sigh.
"I drink beer in the future!" Skuld squealed. "I am so COOL!"
"Yes, it's like looking into a mirror, isn't it?" Xellos asked with a roll of his eyes.
Skuld growled at him.
Keiichi handed her future self a beer and leaned against the counter. "You've been hard to reach the last few weeks," he told her.
She nodded. "I test for my first class license next week. Then it's off to the new job."
"Are you still thinking about the Goddess Relief Office?" Keiichi asked.
"Well, ACTUALLY," adult Skuld began. Suddenly she froze.
The younger Skuld stood there, waiting. "What? WHAT?!" she cried. She turned and found
Xellos holding up the remote. "What?! What am I going to be?!"
"That," Xellos told her. "Is a secret."
"The Almighty said you probably shouldn't know too much about your own future," the god continued. "Which is just fine, since what I really want you to see is in the other room." He pressed a button and they were suddenly standing in the bath. Belldandy was helping her daughter wash her face.
"I'm sure Aunt Skuld will want to see your invention after dinner," Belldandy was telling her with a tone of finality, as if this were the final words of an argument.
The little girl didn't press further. Instead, she talked as she wiped her face. "Aunt Skuld is so neat," she said. "When I grow up, I want to be just like her!" she declared. "I'll invent neat things and fix neat things and... and..."
"It takes a lot of work and studying to be as smart as your Aunt Skuld," Belldandy warned her.
"That's okay! I'm already a genius!"
Belldandy only smiled.
"Well, well, well," Xellos said. "The circle is now complete."
"What do you mean?" Skuld asked.
"You spent your entire life idolizing Belldandy, who went and had a daughter who spends HER whole life idolizing YOU."
Skuld swallowed the lump of pride forming in her throat.
"You see," Xellos continued. "Your relationship has gone from big sister and little sister to just plain sisters. Equals. Why, you even seem to like Keiichi."
Skuld had stopped listening. She was staring at the little girl getting her face dried by Belldandy. It wasn't that long ago that Belldandy was drying HER face. She hadn't done that in a very long time, and she wouldn't ever again. That wasn't a bad thing, she thought.
"I'm ready to go now," Skuld told Xellos.
"Oh?" the god asked. "Are you sure?"
Skuld smiled and nodded.
Skuld heard the door open and shut and the sound of people shuffling across the floor. She hopped up off her futon and opened her bedroom door.
"Welcome home!" she called with a smile. She came up short and blinked at what she saw.
Urd was supporting Belldandy on one shoulder and Keiichi on the other. She gave Skuld a wry grin, but whatever she was about to say was cut off as Belldandy spoke, her words slurred.
"Keiichi," she breathed. "If anodder wooma luuksh at you, I'll sheal her in a Happy Meal bocksh!" she warned, stumbling forward.
Keiichi took a few wary steps forward. "Hashegaawa an I are jusht friendsh!" he said.
"What happened to them?" Skuld asked.
Urd laughed nervously. "Well, I figured it wasn't going to be a party unless the two of them got a little stupid, so I spiked Keiichi's coke with rum and Belldandy's rum with coke."
"Keiichi!" Belldandy, cried, falling into his arms. "I wanna make your wishhes come drue! Your wish ish my command!"
"I feel whoozy," Keiichi muttered. "I wish there wash a pillow I cood fall on."
"Wish granted!" Belldandy declared, throwing her arms into the air. With a flash of light, a large pillow appeared in front of Keiichi, who promptly passed out onto it. A moment later, Belldandy followed him, snoring loudly.
Urd and Skuld sighed. "Come on," Urd said, picking Belldandy up. "Let's get them to bed."
As Urd rested her sister onto her futon, she noticed for the first time that Skuld was dragging Keiichi into the same room.
"Skuld?" Urd asked as the younger goddess unceremoniously dumped the boy next to her sister.
"What?" Skuld asked innocently. "This is where they belong, isn't it?"
Urd smiled and laughed a little. "Yeah, I guess they do." As she led Skuld out of Belldandy's room, she turned off the lights and said, "So what did you do tonight?"
Skuld sighed. "Just watched a lame romance."
"So what do you think?" Filia asked, her arms folded over her chest as she looked through the orb at the Morisato residence.
Xellos shrugged. "Who knows? Perhaps they'll live happily ever after."
"I think everything's going to be just fine now," Tsunami told them.
Filia's brow furrowed as a question popped into her mind. "Wait a second," she said, turning to Xellos. "'Perhaps' they'll live happily ever after? You showed them the future, everything looked fine."
Xellos smiled uncomfortably and rubbed the back of his head. "Did I? That would be some trick, wouldn't it, since the future hasn't happened yet and only Kami sama can really know for sure." He held a finger up. "But you know what's almost an even better trick? Creating the illusion of the future as defined by a preset script written by me and presented to an audience using magic!"
The blonde goddess looked at him, horrified. "That's... that's..." She shook her head. "I mean... That little girl?"
"Who, Heidi?" Xellos asked. "She's Metheus' daughter, from down in Accounting."
Filia's horrified expression grew an order of magnitude.
Xellos curled his face up in a smile and mimicked the girl's voice perfectly. "I invented a carrot cutting machine for Mama! But it doesn't work right," he pouted.
"Um... Wow..." Tsunami interjected, completely shocked.
The blonde closed her eyes and tried to wrap her mind around what she had just heard. "You are... by far... the most horrible god I've ever seen... in my entire life. That Kami sama himself would place you in a position of responsibility haunts me and concerns me more than the possible invasion of Heaven by demonic forces. You disgust me on levels I didn't know existed, and you are a con-man the likes of which are unprecedented in human history."
Xellos digested this. "So, you wanna go steady, or what?"
She screamed and disapparated, leaving Xellos and Tsunami alone.
Tsunami regarded him with narrow eyes for a moment. "That was all a huge lie, wasn't it?"
"Oh, of course!" Xellos said with a smirk. "But I do enjoy getting a rise out of her. Kami sama gave me access to their futures before I went in."
Tsunami chuckled. "And?"
"That," he said. "Is a secret." He smiled wolfishly. "But it WILL be interesting."